Taylor, Mary

Interviewee: Mary Taylor
Narrator: Jean McMillen
Place of Interview: Scoville Memorial Library
Date of Interview: April 26, 2022
File No: 11 Cycle: 5
Summary: Background, Friends of the Scoville Library, Corner Food Pantry

Interview Transcript

Mary Taylor Interview

This is Jean McMillen. I am interviewing Mary Taylor. She is going to talk first about the Friends of the Scoville Memorial Library and about the Corner Food Pantry. Today’s date is April 26, 2022. This is file #11, cycle 5.

JM:       What is your name?

MT:      Mary A. Taylor

JM:       Birthdate?

MT:      June 20, 1948

JM:       Birthplace?

MT:      Detroit, Michigan

JM:       When did you come to Lakeville?

MT:      We came to Lakeville in 1985, originally. We were here on the weekends for quite a few years.  We moved here permanently from New York City in 2008 actually.

JM:       When we talked before, you said that you were interested in getting your children into a country setting, part of the time.

MT:      That’s correct. It was very much part of the reason.  My husband had gone to Kent School and loved this Litchfield, northern Litchfield County. We gravitated immediately to this area.

JM:       Welcome!

MT:      First of all what is the Friends of the Scoville Library?

MT:      The Friends of the Scoville Library is an ancillary group of people. It is a board separate from the Scoville Board of Trustees which is the library board itself. Its primary goal is to raise funds to help the library in a variety of ways.  The Friends of the Scoville Library raise funds to support extra books being purchased for the library. They give grants to the library for anything the library finds needing beyond what its normal budgetary restrictions allow.

JM:       Do you know when you joined?

MT:      I joined the Friends of Scoville Library in 2009.

JM:       Then I must have been around at that time because I remember you from the board.

MT:      Absolutely

JM:       What were your responsibilities?

MT:      I did a variety of things: as my background was in Public Relations, I semi helped with press releases and promote books sales and activities. I would help come up with some ideas for book sales.  The primary source of funds from the Friends to the library was through a number of book sales per year. We would ask the community to return books to us that they had purchased and we would resell them.  It was highly successful.

JM:       We got a lot of books.

MT:      We got a ton of books. Some of them…

JM:       Some of them in very much loved condition.

MT:      Yes, indeed. The other primary fund raiser was the summer cocktail party and book preview to our book sale so that people who bought a ticket to the cocktail party had first dibs to look and buy the books. That was quite successful too.

JM:       Were you also Treasurer for a while?

MT:      I was. Cary Fiertz had been of the board for a number of years. He retired from the board because he was being pulled into other activities. (See his interview) I agreed to take that on for the next 2 years. I actually do not know who replaced me.

JM:       I think I got off before, because I was only on for 2 years. When you were on the board, who was the Chairperson?

MT:      Inge Heckel (See her interview) was the President shortly after I came on the board.

JM:       About how many years were you of the board of the Friends?

MT:      I was on the board for approximately 5 years.

JM:       Why did you join?

MT:      The library is the love of our family. We have spent I can’t tell you how much time at this library. When we first moved here, we used to take them to Cornwall because they had a very significant children’s program on the weekends which was important to us. When we moved from Sharon to Lakeville, this library became our second home for our entire family.

JM:       There couldn’t be a better reason for joining the Friends. Is there anything you would like to add to this portion before we move on to the Corner Food Pantry?

MT:      I think the Scoville Library Friends organization #1 is comprised of very energetic, wonderful people all of us, me included and you; from the very beginning we all loved books.  What a great way to get together. We support the library, purchase of additional books and also just to talk about books.

JM:       Absolutely, did you actually work on the book sales?

MT:      Yes I was a cashier, I helped set up a number of the sales, I also sorted books.

JM:       I sorted books for two years.

MT:      Oh my gosh

JM:       Because I had previously worked in the library, they assumed that I could sort the books the way the library did it.  It was a great experience.

JM:       Now you will be giving more information about the Corner Food Pantry because you have been involved in it a long time.  Before you moved here full time, you said that you used to donate food.

MT:      I did. Once we settled on Wells Hill Road, I could see all the cars coming into St. Mary’s parking lot on Friday nights and Saturday mornings.  I inquired and found out that there was a food pantry located next to St. Mary’s in a building owned by St. Mary’s, but totally separate from the church itself.  I decided that I really wanted to be involved. My first involvement was just donating food, can goods, jellies, baby cereal, and all kinds of non- perishable things to that organization. Then I became more involved in 2008 when we moved here permanently. I wanted to get involved by volunteering.

JM:       I think you said that you worked Friday evening?

MT:      I did. I worked Friday evenings and mostly because I loved it, we were Isabelle and I always requesting to be placed on the porch.  The porch was beyond the normal every week supply which was being distributed.  We would give out pasta or rice, tomato sauce, cheese, fresh vegetables now, but that was not the case back then.  Then it was can goods like canned fruits and vegetables.  There was always one significant protein, chicken or hamburger patties.

JM:       I did not realize that you gave out meat.

MT:      Oh yes

JM:       When I was doing an interview with Jean Gallup years and years ago, she had suggested that you provide a show and tell or tours for people the community to learn about what you actually do.  I thought that was a fantastic idea because I had no idea where it was. I had never been there. I have not had to use it yet, but you never know.  So I really did not know anything about it. I am learning all the time which is good for me.

MT:      There was always tuna.  We always have can fruits, canned vegetables, peanut butter, and the staples.  Whole wheat bread, and then again we always have some protein. Now we have expanded way beyond that.

JM:       Yeah but back then eating habits were different.

MT:      Yes

JM:       One of the things that impressed me when we talked before is your education of the people for nutritional meals, proper, I won’t say proper, but more fruits and vegetables the things to make one healthier.

MT:      Yes and I think the growth of farms here in terms of popularity to the general public and more farms that actually have significant farm stands, the kind of people who come up from New York City.

JM:       The farms have changed. We used to have about 65 dairy farms, now they are going in for mixed farming with more fruits trees and vegetable growing, rather than the animals.

MT:      That was important. That is what people wanted then. But formers can make more money in many cases off of making the change to jams, and jellies.  I think Freund’s is a perfect example. (In Canaan, route 44)They have managed to extend themselves.

JM:       When did you join the board?

MT:      I joined the board in 2010 and became president in 2013.

JM:       I want you to tell me about Marla Miller.

MT:      Marla Miller was elected President to the board in 2012.  She was a driving force. She was vice president at first.  She totally redid and updated all or our rules and regulations, the board package in terms of our policies.  She applied for a nonprofit status with our own 501(c3). At the same point the Marla became active as vice president and later president. We were told by the Older Women’s League (OWLS Kitchen) that they were in the process of folding up their operation. We were notified in 2012.

JM:       With the OWLS Kitchen folding, she had to write a grant, didn’t she?

MT:      With the Owl organization and their disbursement, we were forced to set up our own 501(c3) organization.  We had been using the OWL corporate headquarters non-profit 501(c3) throughout the history of the organization to raise funds. Now we were responsible for setting up our own 501(c3). Marla was responsible for doing that and she spent quite a bit of time getting the papers filed.  She worked with our accountant to actually pull together our own application which was pretty significant in the amount of work she put in. We were finally notified that we were being accepted and did have a 501(c3) effective on November 24, 2013. We were notified then but our exemption was effective April 24, 2013. I think it took the IRs a long time to notify us.

JM:       They were probably back-logged then.

MT:      I am sure they were. We were forced to change the name from OWLS Kitchen to a different name because the Older Women’s League was known and OWLS. We really had to change that name.

JM:       What did you change the name to?

MT:      We changed the name to the Corner Food Pantry. The rationale behind that was we are in the northwest corner of the state.  We are not town specific. Our organization has always provided food to anyone within the area who came to us and requested it.  Our philosophy has always been that this town, meaning Salisbury and all its little hamlets, has always relied on and acceptance of people who worked in our community and the working people of this community  come from far afield; Sharon, Millerton, New York state, Massachusetts, and other towns  like Cornwall.  We used to have a number of people from Kent.  In recent times Cornwall and Kent have set up a more active community food pantry for themselves.  So we have less attendance from those communities.

JM:       Where do you get your board members?

MT:      Our board members are all volunteers: they all started at the Food Pantry as a volunteer.  Our philosophy has been that you really need to understand the organization by working in it.  You are either someone who has been packing shelves, or have been dealing with clients, or distributing food, or have come in to prepack bags, or picked up meat at a market.  Everyone who is on the board has been a volunteer.

JM;       I know the answer to this, but I am asking it anyway. Are you a separate organization or church affiliated organization?

MT:      We are a separate organization.  We are actually supported by every church in Salisbury, Lakeville, and Lime Rock. Quite a number of churches support us. St. Mary’s rent us the building for a very small fee at 80 Sharon Road that we are housed in.

JM:       What are the hours and days you are open?

MT:      We are open Friday afternoon from 3:00 until 4:00. However, we all show up at 2 and quite frankly we unofficially set up: we are ready and prepared by 2:30 and handing out food, loading cars, and often we are there until 5:00 or 5:30 finishing up the last car. We never ever close if there is a person in line.

JM:       How about Saturday?

MT:      Saturday morning from 9:00 to 10:00 and the same program applies.

JM:       From 8:30 to 10 or 10:30 until you are done.  Approximately how many clients do you have?

MT:      Last week we served 102 families. We are averaging between 94 and 100 families per week.

JM:       These people that come have to fill out an in-take form.  What do you want on that form?

MT:      On the form we are asking for their name, their address, more importantly is their phone number, to list every member of the family and their ages. Ages are important because the Connecticut Food Bank often will allocate food based on age. For instance if there are children under the age of 10, We will get some extra specific items. It might be milk or sugarless or low sugar cereal.  That information is important for them. The most important piece of information is the phone number in case there is a product recall.  We have only had that happen once: it was with a tuna product.  It was delivered and we called every single person and told them to just throw it out and not eat it.

JM:       I know that you have a non-profit number a 501(c3), but how do you get your funding?

MT:      Our funding is all basically through individuals, churches, and businesses.  It is all private.

JM:       It is a worthy cause.

MT:      It is. People in this community, weekenders, and full- time people, all of the churches are exceptionally generous to us. The market is incredibly generous; food that we purchase from La Bonne’s is purchased barely over their cost and in addition they raise funds for us through two charitable drives that they have during the year.  They have two different golf outings.  We are given some funds through that.  All of the churches donate through their parishioners to bring food and suggest each month what we need.

JM;       It is part of the sermon, in a way. I don’t mean that to be disrespectful.  Every time I have been to the Lakeville Methodist Church “This month we need…” and she will list the items. We put it all around the Communion Rail. When you go into church on a Thursday, there are lots of things at the rail. That is wonderful. It is the way it should be.

MT:      Absolutely Beyond that the churches also will give us some funds. We have gotten money each year from almost every church in the area.

JM;       WE all have to share what we have.

MT:      We have a number of people who every year will write us a big check for $1,000, $5,000 and we have one gentleman who writes a check for $7,000.

JM:       Good for him!  Do you do an appeal letter?

MT:      We do. We do 2 annual mailings in the spring and summer. Our new newsletter will be coming out in June.  We do a summer newsletter, just updating people on what has been going on with the Pantry.  We thank all the major organizations that give us any support whatsoever. We thank the farms that support us from Whippoorwill which gives us beef. I have a huge list here: Berkshire Grown, Salisbury Community Garden, and Hotchkiss School Farm.  They all are very good to us.

JM:       That is very important.

MT:      We have local families like Judy Murphy and her husband last year brought to us 50 bushels of fresh peaches.  Oh my goodness they were delicious.

JM:       You mentioned La Bonne’s, Sharon Market?

MT:      Sharon Market, we purchase meat down there. Q Farm has been extremely generous in giving us fresh eggs.  Their eggs are superior.

JM:       It used to be Odges in Sharon who had wonderful fresh eggs.  The type of food has changed from when you started.

MT:      Correct

JM:       Now it is mostly fresh or frozen food and fewer canned goods.

MT:      We have tried to reduce canned good consumption and have been pretty successful in some regards.  We have some families who, we now really understand that their freezer space is limited.  You are living in an apartment or home and you are renting it.  Often the freezer is small and the refrigerator is old because the landlord doesn’t replace it until it expires. Once it dies, then he will replace it. We offered frozen vegetables.  Marla was actually the started our road to more frozen vegetables.  Also we encourage volunteers at the pantry who ordered foods through the Connecticut Food Bank to avail ourselves when they offered eggs, onions, and broccoli because they do often offer fresh vegetables. We encourage people to use them.

JM:       Where is the Connecticut Food Bank located?

MT:      It was headquartered in New Haven, and has recently moved. I think it is still in New Haven, but I am not certain.  It is in that area.  They deliver to us once a week. Depending upon what they have, as they have different things each week, we put our order in and hope we get what we ordered.

JM:       You have mentioned a couple of times that there are a variety of job to do.

MT:      There are a number of jobs at the Food Pantry.  We have people who tear down boxes.  If you think about it, the fact that we have toilet papers delivered in boxes, cartons of pasta, boxes of pasta sauce, we have tomatoes, cereal comes in big boxes. All of those boxes have to be broken down. We have a local company that picks up from us once a week, but due to our schedule, they  do pick up, but we have so much more  that we have someone come on Sunday and Monday  who empty the garage of all the boxes that have accumulated since the company pick-up day.  We have people who come ads set out cones on the roads on Friday and Saturdays, others set up tables for fresh produce.  We have people who volunteer for registration. We have others who pack bags in advance. Serving 102 families over a 3 ½ hour period is a real challenge.

Each family receives the amount of food based on the number of people in their family. We are pre-packing all of the standard staples for a family of 2, to 8 and we actually have a few families of 10: those are mostly multigenerational families.

JM:       Do you put names of the bags?

MT:      No

JM:       I come in and say I am a family of three and I would get a bog of food for a family of three.

MT:      Correct.   There are other things that are packaged what they might like.  When you arrive at registration to give your family information, there are choices it is either pasta or rice? Do you want bananas? Yes or no.  Do you want cold cereal or oatmeal? We are asking those questions while filling out the form.  That form is handed to the people at their drive-up position: they then add those things to the standard order.  Then that bod with both staples and choices are handed to the person.

JM:       So it is customized?

MT:      It is customized.  We found it leads to less waste. Some people just don’t want a certain thing. It has benefited the Food Pantry and also our clients.

JM:       Absolutely.  Approximately how many volunteers do you have?

MT:      We have literally listed 60 volunteers. Not everyone works every day, but the beauty of this is that you can sign up in advance. Amanda Asch from Amesville is now co=President but has been in charge of the volunteers.  She has built up our volunteer base into an extraordinary machine.  There are a variety of activities that you can take part in.  As the cars pull up the bags are finished and loaded, but there are other things available.  We have all of our fresh produce fruits and vegetables sitting on tables: depending of the family preference those bags are loaded as well. When someone pulls up, they are asked< “Would you like potatoes, onions or broccoli? “  “I would like the potatoes and onions but no broccoli.”  Those items are added by people who are outside handling that portion.

JM:       I think I have covered everything, but is there something I missed that you would like to add?

MT:      I think the only thing I would like to add is the organization has morphed incredibly since the challenge of Covid.  We have gone from having roughly 45 to 60 families on any given weekend. When I say in, they used to come thru the pantry and self-select. Now we have devised a way to have them drive through to get pre-bagged food which runs very smoothly.  It has been constantly refined.  Our board and volunteers give the board credit because they have really encompassed the volunteers and used their expertise and their knowledge to continue to refine our delivery system.  It is quite extraordinary. On a Friday afternoon and watch the procession through the parking lot and how quickly and efficiently all of these families, and many Fridays the bulk of the clients come through.  Usually 55 families will come through that parking lot.

JM:       That is a lot go move through in such a short period of time.

MT:      It is truly a well- oiled machine.

JM:       Thank you so very much.

MT:      You are welcome.